Report on the outcome of the Meetings of the 84th regular session of the International Cocoa Council

The Executive Director a.i. presents a review of outcome of September’s 84th regular session of the International Cocoa Council and the 144th meeting of the Executive Committee. (NB: Each of the highlighted presentations can be downloaded).

Among the distinguished delegates to our September meetings, we were pleased to welcome Their Excellencies the Ministers of Agriculture and of Trade of Côte d’Ivoire, Her Excellency the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea and Their Excellencies the Ambassadors to the United Kingdom of Côte d’Ivoire and Costa Rica.

We also enjoyed presentations from the distinguished representatives of a number of our partner bodies, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and the European chocolate industry grouping CAOBISCO.

Since our last meeting in March, we were pleased to report to the Council that a number of countries had officially joined the International Cocoa Agreement 2010. The countries that we were delighted to welcome to the new Agreement were Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Togo and, most recently, Côte d’Ivoire. We were very pleased as well to note that when the new Agreement takes effect, representation by cocoa producing member countries of the ICCO would be over 95% of world production.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, which seeks to end the use of the worst forms of child labour in cocoa production, the Council discussed the Protocol and endorsed the work of the International Cocoa Initiative, which works closely with Member governments and is supported by industry and various NGOs.

During the Council meeting, I presented the results of our work at the Secretariat identifying the continuing threat of the Boom and Bust cycle of cocoa supply and demand and the dangerous outcomes that this could have both for producers and consumers. Despite the proliferation of projects and programmes aimed at relieving and shielding producers from the effects of this cycle, there has been little coordination of the various projects in order to focus efforts in the most efficient way to assist producers in an effective and long term manner. The Council therefore agreed to hold a World Cocoa Conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in late 2012, to address these important issues, and to provide a “road map” for actions over the next five years aimed at developing a successful and sustainable cocoa economy.

The serious topic of the European Union’s proposed stringent limits on various contaminants in cocoa was also discussed in Council, and the Members expressed deep concern that a compound like cadmium—found in the sorts of volcanic soils that produce some of the world’s best cocoa—is the now being considered for much tighter regulation. The Members asked the Secretariat to make representations to the EU Directorate involved outlining the concerns involved and asking for clarity on the EU’s decision-making process in this case.

In Council, we made significant progress in discussing the Strategic Plan of work for the Organization for the first five years of the new International Cocoa Agreement, and we were able to get approval for a large and ambitious schedule of projects and activities beginning in the upcoming year.

On the subject of project activities, we were able to report to our Executive Committee several projects that are now under way, including SPS Capacity Building in Africa, which was successfully launched at a Workshop in Yaoundé, Cameroon in June.  The project, along with a proposed parallel project to take place in Latin America and Asia, aims to maintain market access for cocoa beans by ensuring the production of good quality cocoa that complies with the relevant international regulations and legislation on pesticide residues and other harmful substances. Some 90 cocoa stakeholders from the five African member countries taking part attended the Yaoundé Workshop, which was addressed by a number of international experts in the field.

We were also able to report to the Council on our very successful Seminar on Cocoa Terminal Markets, which was held in June at the ICCO headquarters in London. About 40 participants—mainly policy makers and their advisors from our member countries all over the world—benefited from the seminar, which looked in depth at futures contracts and the way they are used in the cocoa market. The reactions to this event were so positive that the Secretariat is considering repeating the Seminar in the near future. As part of our capacity building initiatives, the Executive Committee agreed to recommend to Council that more Seminars of this type, on this and other appropriate topics, be conducted in exporting member countries under the auspices of the ICCO Secretariat.

Among the topics on the agenda for discussion, the Council considered the proposed relocation of the Organization’s headquarters to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. His Excellency, the Minister of Trade of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Dagobert Banzio, reconfirmed his government’s invitation to the Organization, and the offer to host the ICCO in Abidjan for a period of ten years so that the Organization could build its headquarters there. The Council agreed to allow delegates time to consult with their governments about it, and to report back at the next meeting of the Council in March 2012.

The council also launched the search for a new Executive Director to take over the running of the Organization’s Secretariat after the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement comes into force, probably by September 2012. The new Executive Director will come from one of the ICCO member countries, be endorsed by that country and be chosen by a selection panel made up of an equal number of producer and consumer member representatives, the Council decided.

The Council and Executive Committee elected new officers, and named Mr Rafael Jaén Tapiola (Spain) as the 2011/12 Chair of the Council, with Mr David Braun (Switzerland) as First Vice Chair, and a representative of Malaysia as Second Vice Chair. Madame Massandjé Toure-Litsé (Côte d’Ivoire) is the new Chair of the Executive Committee, and Sr Idelfonso Medina Garcia (Dominican Republic) is Vice Chair.

Finally, as a group we must heartily thank the Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana for her country’s very gracious hospitality during our meetings.

Our next meetings are scheduled for March 2012 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, following the kind offer of the government of Ecuador to host the meetings there.